I have been sick for the past couple of weeks and need to take a break while I recover from a nasty sinus infection. I’ll return to blogging soon.
Continued from here.
The bottom line is that we need to love our bodies because God created them. Love is not a feeling; it’s a choice. I choose to love my body every time I exercise it, feed it healthy foods, and rest it (both with sleep and downtime while awake).
Another way I choose to love my body is by thinking positive thoughts about it. Back when I hated my body, I was ultra-critical of it, staying focused on its flaws. I thought this body part was “too big” while another body part was “too small.” I sent a constant flow of negative energy into my body through my thoughts about my body.
Today, I thank God for my body exactly as it is. While I am not particularly enjoying the physical adjustments that my body is making as it moves toward menopause, my body is transforming as God designed it. Billions of women’s bodies have transitioned through the menopause process, and my body will do so as well. I confess that I look forward to the day when the hot flashes will stop disrupting my sleep, but they come in handy in the winter when I’m cold!
Ultimately, you are the one who chooses what you think. If that were not the case, Paul would not have told us to hold every thought captive to Christ. Why admonish us to do something that is out of our control? If you have had body image issues for a long time, then your default setting is likely allowing a stream of negative thoughts to run through your head completely unchallenged. It’s time to put a stop to this.
I recommend writing down scriptures on index cards that you can read aloud (and preferably memorize) whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about your body. I have provided links to several applicable Bible verses in this series that you can use. Stop passively allowing yourself to flood your mind and body with negativity. Instead, choose to agree with God that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, making is sacred and of great worth.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace jumping in the air next to a valentine. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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I love the physical building of my local church. While I know the Church is made up of people, we meet in a particular building, and I have deep affection for that building because that is what houses the Body the Christ. As I walk through the doors, I sense the manifest presence of God.
Because my local church’s physical building is dedicated to the service of the Living God, I care that it is properly maintained. I’m a minimalist by nature, so I’m not looking for ornamentation like I saw at the Vatican. We don’t have gold-plated molding or sophisticated stained glass windows at my church. However, our church building is clean, well-maintained, and organized. I believe that our congregation honors God by doing whatever is necessary to keep the building in good physical shape.
The same concept applies to our physical bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as I would not allow my local church’s physical building to fall into disrepair, I am mindful of taking good care of my physical body as God’s temple.
For example, God created my body to need 8 hours of sleep each night, so I routinely go to bed 8 hours before I need to awaken. I don’t stay up late to get more done, awaken after 5 or 6 hours of sleep, and then drink 4 cups of coffee or energy drinks to keep my body functioning after depriving it of needed sleep. Just as I respect the needs of my local church’s physical building, I respect the needs of my physical body.
Another example is being mindful of what I eat to fuel my body. While I enjoy the taste of French fries more than the taste of carrots, God created my body to be fueled by nutritional foods. Primarily eating foods with no nutritional value dishonors God’s temple. That’s not to say that we cannot eat a slice of birthday cake from time to time, but if we want to honor God with our bodies, then we need to respect the needs of our bodies by primarily fueling them with healthy foods.
A third example is exercise. For God to use my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit to reach a broken world, my body needs to be able to do so physically. If I never exercise my body, it will break down and create a barrier to going where God calls me to go and doing what God calls me to do.
See what I mean about God getting into our business?
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running on a treadmill. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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As I mentioned at the end of my last blog entry, someone doesn’t have to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image issues. Society is set up so that most women fall short of the “ideal” woman, causing them to view their bodies as “less than” or “not good enough.” Far too many women want the proportions of a Barbie doll, but check out this article about how a woman with those proportions could not even walk!
Magazine covers show women who are already physically beautiful, and yet even they are airbrushed to give the impression of an ideal that does not actually exist. Check out these before and after photos of various celebrities. And don’t even get me started on the teeth whitening of actors and actresses on screen.
And then there’s the limited shelf life of a beautiful woman. We are all supposed to stay between the ages of 18 and 25 for the rest of our lives, which is (obviously) a physical impossibility. Many celebrities undergo plastic surgery to try to stay looking that young, resulting in all sorts of distortions, including a perpetually surprised look in their eyebrows (which have been plucked out and then penciled back in) on a younger looking face atop an older looking neck.
As beloved children of God, we cannot allow the world to define what beauty is. You were made in God’s image, which means you are beautiful just the way you are! You do not need to conform to the World’s impossible standard of beauty to have value and worth. If God wanted you to be taller, shorter, etc., He would have made you that way. God created you to be unique. Out of all the people who have ever existed in any time period since the history of world, nobody has ever looked exactly like you, and that’s a wonderful testament how uniquely God sees you. He does not want you to look like Barbie: He loves your body exactly the way it is.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace walking the red carpet by a limo. Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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I hope that the three recovery testimonies I shared have inspired you and that you are now thinking about your own recovery testimonies. We all have them – nobody is lucky enough to get through life without experiencing some sort of upheaval that rocks your world. And if you truly don’t have one yet, know that one is coming. When it hits, I hope you will remember what you read about my recovery testimonies and believe while in the storm that God will cause the sun to shine again.
Your recovery testimony might not be as dramatic as mine. If that is the case, count your blessings! The three I shared are dramatic, but I had to live through that drama, which wasn’t fun. Only the power of God could turn these tragedies into victories!
I encourage you not to compare your recovery testimony to mine or anyone else’s but, instead, praise God that you have one! Your recovery testimony has the power to inspire other people, so you need to share it. If people believe that you never suffered, then they will assume that’s the real reason for your joy. When you show people your joy and then your scars, they realize that there must be a God to be able to make such sweet lemonade out of life’s lemons.
Think about the type of person that the World would expect me to be. Just the child abuse alone would cause someone to expect me to be a bitter person who is unable to trust (which is exactly who I was for a long time). I could have been a prostitute or drug addict. Heck, I could have committed suicide a long time ago. And yet, here I am, shouting from the rooftops that my God is faithful! He is good! He is bigger! He is in control! It’s one thing to hear those words from someone who has never suffered. It’s a completely different thing to hear those words from someone covered with scars as I am.
I used to be ashamed of my scars, but now I’m proud of them because each one proclaims the glory and power of God. When I show people my scars, as I did in my three recovery testimonies, I am showing evidence that I was wounded as well as proof that God heals. Why would I want to hide them? When people ask how I know there is a God, I need only show them my scars. I have no other explanation for how I became the person I am today.
[Graphic: Cartoon of a newspaper with the headline of “Good News” and a photo of Grace giving a “thumbs up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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God’s faithfulness in bringing me my son grew my faith. I was active in church and Bible study. Then, my life blew up again because it was time for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse. This testimony is far too complex for a 400-word blog entry, so I’ll just hit the highlights.
When my son was a toddler, I started having flashbacks of the childhood abuse. Up until this point, I had no conscious memory of the child abuse, and yet my life screamed my truths. I found a checklist online listing 37 common symptoms of people who have been severely abused in childhood. Someone with over 25 of those symptoms is likely to have experienced ongoing and severe childhood abuse. I had 34 of them. Reading this checklist was like looking in a mirror. For most of my life, I thought I was “crazy” with multiple unrelated issues. I did not realize that I was actually “normal” – a “normal” child abuse survivor.
The pain was so intense that I wanted to die. I even considered suicide but could not figure out a way to do it that would not traumatize my young son. While I held onto my faith during this season of life, I was mostly along for the ride as wave after wave of past pain pounded me. My eating disorder got worse, and I started self-injuring to help me manage the pain.
A church friend asked our pastor for a therapist recommendation, which is how I found my wonderful therapy, who is both a Christian and a qualified psychologist with experience in working with people who were severely abused in childhood. God used him to guide me along the path to healing.
The person I am today is so different from the person who entered therapy in 2003 that I can barely see a resemblance. I have completely forgiven all of my childhood abusers. The pain is gone and has been replaced by joy. I no longer self-injure or binge eat … or experience flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal urges. I now love and accept myself exactly as I am. All of the self-loathing is gone. I truly am a new creation in Christ, to the praise and glory of God!
Over the years, I have encouraged countless child abuse survivors along their own path to healing. I wrote a blog (under another pen name) for six years in which I shared that hope and healing are available, no matter how severe your childhood abuse was. Several people have confided in me about having been abused as children – I was the first person they told. God has made much lemonade out of the lemons of my childhood abuse.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking wild-eyed under the words, “Cray Cray.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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As I shared in my last blog entry, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 8 years old. I took my faith seriously. I was mocked for bring my Bible to school to read, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover when I was 14-15 years old. I even did a Bible study with my peers in my high school.
Then, halfway through my senior year of high school, my father dropped dead … just like that … and my world rocked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so we lost all family income. My mother understandably struggled emotionally with the sudden loss of her husband, so it felt like losing both parents rather than only one. My father’s extended family had a falling out with my mother, so no matter where I looked, I saw friction and discord.
I was angry with no “safe” place to aim my anger, so I aimed it at God. My attitude at the time was that if God was going to treat me this way — one of the few teenagers on the planet who actually took the time to read every word of the Bible — then I wanted nothing to do with Him … and I walked away. I refused to go to church. I stopped praying. I decided I was going to live my life in my own way with my #1 focus on becoming fully independent as quickly as possible. I graduated high school at age 17, college at age 20, and law school at age 23. I was determined to hold the reins of my own life and never have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.
Eleven years later, God wooed me back, and He was sneaky about it. My closest colleague at work became a Christian and had numerous questions. Her church friends didn’t know much about the Bible while I had read the entire book, so I wound up teaching her the basics of her newfound faith, even though I had rejected it myself. God softened my heart through this process.
This colleague then invited me to a new Bible study starting up at work because she didn’t want to go alone. She wound up dropping out after a few weeks for personal reasons, but by then, I wanted to stay … and I returned to God.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace on her knees yelling, “Nooooo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]